SAN DIEGO — Mike McCoy’s interview with San Diego went so well that both sides felt he was a perfect fit to become the Chargers’ new coach.
McCoy had one thing to do, though, before accepting the Chargers’ offer, so it was a good thing Chargers President Dean Spanos’ private plane was at his disposal.
“There was no doubt in my mind when I got back on that plane to go back home,” said McCoy, the former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator who was introduced Tuesday as Chargers’ new coach. “They wanted to keep me here last night. But I said, ‘I’ve got to talk to my wife about this before. If I made the decision without talking to my wife, I might get in a little trouble.’”
So McCoy flew back to Denver to talk it over with wife Kellie. McCoy, his wife and their two children were back on the same plane Tuesday morning, flying back to San Diego to take the job.
“Without a doubt we knew this was the place we wanted to be,” said McCoy, who signed a four-year contract.
McCoy replaces Norv Turner, who was fired along with general manager A.J. Smith after the Chargers finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
The move comes three days after the top-seeded Broncos were eliminated from the playoffs in a double-overtime home loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The 40-year-old McCoy is the same age as Tom Telesco, who was hired as general manager last week. He interviewed after the Chargers already had talked to Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, fired head coaches Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt, and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
“Once he came in and once we saw how good he was, we just felt we had to have him now,” Telesco said of McCoy. “We had to get it done or we’d lose him.”
“He was polished, prepared, had great questions, which I think is big, too, that he had a lot of questions for us,” Telesco said. “It’s a partnership between the GM and the head coach, through and through. We spend more time with each other during the season than we do with our own family so it’s got to be a tight relationship. When he came in, after a little bit of time you could tell he was the right guy for us. We went after him hard.”
San Diego was scheduled to interview Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on Wednesday. Telesco, previously the Colts’ vice president of football operations, called Arians on Tuesday morning and told him the Chargers had hired McCoy.
“It was a tough phone call,” Telesco said. “I have so much respect for Bruce. He’s an excellent football coach. He’s going to be a great head coach in this league. I was honest with him. I said, ‘There’s different situations, different fits, and right now, this is a fit for Mike McCoy.’ He understood.”
McCoy inherits a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since after the 2008 season.
He thanked all the coaches and players he’s worked with over the years for helping him get to this point. He also said he knew just a few minutes into his interview that San Diego was the right place.
“They all laughed at me when I walked in yesterday with this big ol’ bag with all these books and binders and everything,” McCoy said. “Well, that’s my life’s work. We’ve got a detailed plan that Tom and I are going to put together. … There’s going to be some change. There’s a reason for change. And change is good sometimes in organizations. We’ve just got to make the most of the opportunity we have moving forward.”
The Broncos have won consecutive AFC West titles. McCoy tutored quarterbacks Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow in 2011, and had Peyton Manning behind center in 2012.
McCoy, who interviewed with the Miami Dolphins last year after retooling Denver’s offense to the read-option for Tebow at midstream in 2011, burnished his head coaching credentials this season while blending the power formations the Broncos used in leading the league in rushing last year with Tebow and some of the spread formations that Manning ran in Indianapolis.
“I think he’s going to be a great head coach. Very detail-oriented, knows the game, relates with players very well,” Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley said.
“Peyton does a lot but Mike is very good at what he does and he did a great job this year, so a lot of credit needs to go to him, also,” Stokley said. “I think that’s what you need to be a head coach — you need to be flexible. You need to do whatever you think is the best for your team to win and you know that’s what he’s done. You saw that last year. Not a lot of offensive coordinators in the NFL like running that kind of offense, but that’s what he did and it was successful.”
McCoy said he was “a bit stubborn” after Tebow was made the starter in 2011, but then realized he needed to change the offense.
“You take advantage of what your players do best,” McCoy said.
With the Chargers, McCoy will work with Philip Rivers, who struggled this season in large part because he was under siege behind a shaky offensive line. Rivers was sacked 49 times and committed 22 turnovers, giving him 47 turnovers in two seasons.
“You go through the disappointment from the season and losing your coach to now having a new GM, new coach, and you get excited and ready to go for this 2013 season,” Rivers said.
“Once I found out that we were bringing him in on Monday, I was hoping he wasn’t going to leave again. I’m excited that was the case and I’m looking forward to getting started.”
Denver swept the Chargers in 2012, including an epic 35-24 victory at San Diego on Oct. 15 when Manning calmly led the Broncos back from a 24-0 halftime deficit.
McCoy was a walk-on quarterback at Long Beach State under coach George Allen. After the 49ers dropped football, he transferred to Utah. He signed with the Broncos as a free agent and spent his rookie season on Green Bay’s practice squad. He had stops in NFL Europe and with San Francisco, Philadelphia and in the CFL. He began his pro coaching career with Carolina before moving to the Broncos in 2009.
McCoy said he learned about detail and preparation from Allen, who coached the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins.
“He was not a big yeller and screamer, he just expected you to go out there and do your job and execute the system the way it was supposed to be executed,” McCoy said.
McCoy said he planned to hire an offensive coordinator to call plays. Turner called his own plays. McCoy was non-committal about defensive coordinator John Pagano, saying he planned to evaluate the entire staff.